This is the fourth in a biannual series of theological digests intended for church leaders. It addresses the doctrine of justification by faith, tracing its historical background and development to the time of the Reformation. It includes an adapted and slightly modernised version of the ninth chapter of John Owen’s 1677 book, Justification by faith.
It explains the difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic views of justification, before addressing pertinent issues raised in the last 50 years. How this doctrine influences our conduct as believers is also explored, as well as the joy that should follow from understanding this teaching.
This is a well written, refreshing and at times heart-warming collection of papers, which could be profitably used in personal or group study. It is produced with lots of space where readers can make notes. It is not a book for new or theologically uninformed believers, though.
The opening quotation is from Karl Barth, which should cause concern (it did for me!). Thankfully, the ethos of the book is firmly scriptural; this includes examining, rejecting and dismissing the novelties of the ‘New Perspective’ teaching on the Word of God.
I found the chapter entitled ‘Back to the truth’ particularly helpful. Its author, Matthew Barrett (tutor of systematic theology and church history at Oak Hill College) gives a breathtaking overview of the doctrine, moving from Pelagius in the 4th century to Luther in the 16th century in just 17 pages!
The final chapters rescue the subject from ‘dull’ academia. Paul’s letter to the Romans is used to establish the pertinence of the doctrine for assurance, church unity, mission and sanctification.
The last chapter of this collection challenges readers as to how well they understand and communicate the joy of justification to a world which radically rejects sin as a category and is obsessed with self-justification.
‘This is what we get to preach! Isn’t that absolutely remarkable? What an immense privilege! I cannot think of anything I would rather tell a room full of marred and scarred men and women’ (p.76).